What Happens If a Person Refuses to Sign Divorce Papers?

By Chris Blank

When marriages fall apart, both parties often want the divorce process to progress as quickly as possible. However, cases occur when one spouse refuses to sign divorce papers for various reasons ranging from a desire to seek greater financial support to a genuine desire to remain married. However, in the United States, one spouse cannot prevent another spouse from obtaining a divorce. Consult with an attorney who specializes in family law and divorce with specific questions about ending a marriage.

Fault Versus No-Fault Divorce

Before the 1970s, divorcing couples often had to provide legal justification to seek a divorce on fault-based grounds such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment. No-fault divorce provides a relatively uncomplicated means for couples to obtain a divorce by eliminating such requirements. Instead, many no-fault divorces proceed on the basis of "irreconcilable differences" or similar circumstances. No-fault statutes generally require couples to live separately for varying periods of time before seeking a divorce; however, obtaining a legal separation is generally not required.

Waiting Periods

Many states impose waiting periods on couples before granting a no-fault divorce. Waiting periods vary from six months to as long as a year or two years. Waiting periods are designed to allow couples to make efforts to reconcile their marriages or to be certain that reconciliation is impossible. Individuals may still pursue no-fault divorce in situations where one spouse refuses to sign divorce papers; however the required waiting period may be longer than if both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage.

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Stalling Tactics and Default Divorce

Many spouses attempt to stall the divorce process by refusing to negotiate a settlement agreement or refusing to sign divorce papers after previously agreeing on a settlement. If your spouse is stalling the divorce by skipping sessions or otherwise demonstrating an unwillingness to cooperate with the divorce processes, you may petition the court to impose a contempt citation on your spouse. In some cases you may receive compensation for the additional attorney and court fees you paid as a result of your spouse's stalling. In extreme cases you may obtain a default divorce, which means that a judge grants your divorce even though your spouse refused to appear in court or sign the divorce papers.

Covenant Marriages

Covenant marriages are designed to reduce the number of broken marriages by requiring counseling and imposing restrictions on obtaining a divorce. Couples must agree before tying the knot that they intend to enter into a covenant marriage and undergo counseling before obtaining a divorce. Although several states have pursued possible legislation concerning covenant marriage, as of 2011, only Arizona, Louisiana and Arkansas have laws on the books. If you are involved in a covenant marriage, you may find it difficult to obtain a no-fault divorce without enduring a lengthy waiting period, whether your spouse is cooperative or not.

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What Are Desertion Divorce Papers?
 

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How to File for Divorce of a Covenant Marriage in Louisiana

In Louisiana, a "covenant marriage" is an alternative to an ordinary marriage. A covenant marriage is one in which the couple agrees, during times of marital difficulty, to take all reasonable steps necessary to preserve their marriage, including marital counseling, before seeking a divorce. Additionally, it eliminates most "no-fault" divorce options; therefore, a spouse who later wants a divorce must prove one of several grounds for divorce allowed under Louisiana's covenant marriage law. For these reasons, divorce after a covenant marriage is much more difficult and time-consuming than a typical no-fault divorce. However, Louisiana does not require marrying couples to enter into covenant marriages. It is their choice.

Limited vs. Absolute Divorce

When a couple is not yet ready or willing to pursue an absolute divorce, which ends the marriage completely, another option in some states may be a "limited divorce." Depending on the laws of the state, a limited divorce allows the couple to live separately, either indefinitely, or for a period of time leading up to an absolute divorce. A divorcing couple should consider the advantages and disadvantages of both an absolute and a limited divorce before starting the divorce proceedings.

Can a Wisconsin Judge Order Marriage Counseling Before Granting a Divorce?

The procedures for divorce in Wisconsin are similar to those of other states. One of the spouses must file an initial petition; the couple must also draw up a marital settlement agreement and attend a public hearing. State law allows only for "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage as valid grounds for divorce. In the interest of avoiding divorce, if possible, Wisconsin also permits the presiding judge to recommend or order marriage counseling.

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